HC Deb 17 November 1969 vol 791 cc831-3
16. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made in the arrangements for the holding of the Security Conference proposed by the Warsaw Powers in the light of the invitation issued by the President of Finland; and if he will make a statement.

19. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiative the British Government intend to take at the December meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the holding of an East-West conference on a European security pact.

46. Mr. Will Owen

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government concerning participation in the proposed European Security Conference; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. George Thomson

The N.A.T.O. Powers have been for some time engaged in an examination in depth of ways of initiating useful discussions with the Warsaw Pact Powers on fundamental problems of European Security. For example, at Reykjavik in 1968 N.A.T.O. called on the Warsaw Pact Powers to join in discussions of mutual force reductions. This invitation has so far not been answered, but it remains open. In preparing for the December meeting of N.A.T.O., we are taking into account with our Allies the Declaration issued by the Warsaw Pact at Prague on 31st October, and the invitation issued by the President of Finland.

Mrs. Short

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to the House that artificial barriers will not be placed in the way of continuing with the discussions about a security conference, because for many years the Warsaw Pact Powers have been anxious to get a conference of this kind organised and have received a rather cold reply from the Foreign Office?

Mr. Thomson

I cannot accept my hon. Friend's premise. I assure her that there will be no artificial barriers placed from the N.A.T.O. Council side. Indeed, the present position, as I see it, is that the N.A.T.O. Council has made positive proposals to which we have not yet had a response from the Warsaw Pact Powers.

On the question of a European security conference, the Secretary-General of N.A.T.O. put it for all the members of N.A.T.O. very accurately, at the recent meeting which I attended a week or so ago, when he talked about the readiness of the Alliance members to consider all possible procedures for negotiations on the East-West issue, including a conference or series of conferences.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Would it not be a wonderful thing for peace if such a conference resulted in the mutual force reductions to which my right hon. Friend referred? In that case, why was it that at the recent conference which he attended he, instead of taking the initiative, appeared to drag his feet?

Mr. Thomson

I am sorry that my hon. Friend prefers to believe what he reads in the newspapers instead of coming and having a word with me about what I said. I do not believe that the Press reports accurately reflected what I said at the Council meeting. To give one isolated quotation, I said at the N.A.T.O. Council that we must continue to probe and to seize any opportunity that may exist of improving East-West relations. I went on to say that we must be ready to assume a positive posture at any time.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that every member of he alliance is brought into these and all such discussions?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, certainly. We have made it clear from the beginning that any general European security conference must be a conference between the N.A.T.O. alliance and the Warsaw Pact alliance and, therefore, must include both our transatlantic allies—Canada and the United States—from the beginning.